Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

Parliament’s trade and industry committee has opted to limit the scope of the National Gambling Amendment Bill — adopted this week — to a number of circumscribed issues, leaving contentious matters to the sixth parliament, which will take office after next year’s elections.

The redrafted bill adopted by the committee proposes to dissolve the National Gambling Board, which has been under administration for the past four years, and replace it with a National Gambling Regulator, which will be headed up by a CEO and will report directly to the department of trade and industry.

This is in line with the department’s policy to do away with the boards of the agencies that fall under it, and implement the National Gambling Policy adopted by the cabinet in 2016.

However, DA trade and industry spokesperson Dean Macpherson has criticised the haste and “piecemeal approach” with which the committee has dealt with the bill. He is also critical of the department only presenting a commissioned report on the governance and possible rationalisation of all its agencies to committee members on Monday — and only after the committee demanded it.

Macpherson believes that committee members should have been informed of the different options available for dealing with the National Gambling Board, and provided with the reasons why the department rejected the recommendations of the report by Ramulifho.

The report recommended that the National Gambling Board and the National Lotteries Board be merged into a new institution — the National Gambling and Lotteries Commission. Macpherson said he was in favour of one overarching body that regulated all forms of gaming and lotteries.

The DA has thus objected to the bill as it does not believe the committee applied its mind to it sufficiently.

Bingo

Committee chair Joanmariae Fubbs said that although the department had introduced a comprehensive bill, the committee had resolved to deal with only three technical issues “to address existing governance challenges speedily”.

These issues were the dissolution of the National Gambling Board and its replacement by the National Gambling Regulator; addressing governance challenges relating to the National Gambling Policy Council; and broadening the national central electronic monitoring system.

Fubbs said that other more substantive issues, such as horse racing, dog racing, electronic bingo terminals, betting on lottery results and online gaming, would be referred for consideration in the sixth parliament. These issues are included in the bill tabled by trade and industry minister Rob Davies.

The original bill proposed prohibiting dog racing, and betting on it; restricting the advertising and promotion of gambling activities; restricting the structure and allocation of bingo machines; and recognising electronic bingo terminals.

It provided for the self-regulation of the horse-racing industry and prohibited betting on the results of the lottery. It also proposed the establishment of the National Gambling Regulator.

Said Fubbs: “Even though the committee considers these matters to be serious, the time available would not have allowed for an effective interrogation of these matters. Therefore, the committee is of the view that these amendments, adopted today, will pave the way for more comprehensive and holistic amendments to the gambling regulatory framework.” 

ensorl@businesslive.co.za